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Less than one calendar year after tabbing Rob Chudzinski as the guy to help them end at least two decades of frustration, the Browns reversed course Sunday and axed Chudzinski.
"We appreciate Chud's passion for the Browns, and we have great respect for him both personally and professionally," the team said in a statement. "We needed to see progress with this football team. We needed to see development and improvement as the season evolved and, unfortunately, we took a concerning step backward in the second half of the year.
"Our fans deserve to see a consistently competitive team. We have high standards, and there's an urgency for success. When we believed we were not positioned to achieve significant progress in 2014, we knew we had to admit that a change was needed, and move forward.
"Browns fans are the most loyal and passionate supporters in the NFL. We're fully committed to bringing them the winning football team they deserve."
It was a rather surprising turn of events for a team that finally seemed like it might be headed in the right direction early in 2013. A closer look at how it unraveled:
• Tale of the tape: 4-12 record in 2013; 4-12 record with team overall.
• What Went Wrong: Well, for starters, it seems as if the Browns had second thoughts from the get-go about hiring Chudzinski, a first-time head coach. That speaks as much to the dysfunction in Cleveland's front office as it does to Chudzinski's abilities.
The season actually started surprisingly well for a Browns team not expected to go very far in 2013. They ran off three straight wins in late September/early October, with Brian Hoyer at quarterback, to get above .500 and still sat at 4-5 headed into their bye.
From there, disaster. The Browns lost their last seven games, giving up 27 points or more in five of them as Ray Horton's defense crumpled behind a struggling offense. Even though the Trent Richardson trade looked brilliant in bringing back a Round 1 pick, the Browns never found a true No. 1 RB. And with issues at quarterback continuing to linger, that was too much to overcome.
• Roster Outlook: The Browns do have some talented pieces in place -- WR Josh Gordon is a burgeoning star, Joe Thomas a standout left tackle and Joe Haden a very solid No. 1 cornerback.
Aside from finding the aforementioned starting quarterback, running back (and help at wide receiver), the biggest decision might surround what to do with center Alex Mack. He's arguably the best at this position in the league, meaning he'll have a chance to cash in as a free agent, though he's reportedly said he will allow Cleveland the chance to match any offer. Would the Browns consider using a franchise tag instead?
Much of what happens from here with the roster will be determined by the schemes of the next staff. (The Browns will reportedly retain the coaching staff for now and begin their search for a new head coach with them in place.) The Chudzinski era was built around a vertical passing attack and 3-4 defense. Cleveland may have to go back to the drawing board.
• Possible Replacement(s): Josh McDaniels, Bill O'Brien, Lovie Smith, Kevin Sumlin, Ray Horton GALLERY: One and done coaches in the NFL